To have been a fly on the wall: Graham, Stott & Lewis in 1955
Have been thoroughly enjoying Roger Steer’s new bio of John Stott – very readable and engaging so far. There are lots of highlights, which i’ll possibly touch on when i review in time. But one moment just jumped out at me and sparked my imagination.
Stott had been rector of All Souls since 1950 (which he took on at just 29). Within just a few years he was leading missions to various universities. But he was also instrumental in arranging for and leading the various big mission events that Billy Graham undertook in the UK. In 1955, Graham was invited to lead a mission at Cambridge by the CICCU, just 3 years after Stott himself had done it.
Billy found the prospect of conducting a full-scale university mission at Cambridge increasingly daunting. ‘I am deeply concerned and in much thought about the mission,’ he told John. ‘I have never felt more inadequate and totally underprepared. As I think over the possibility for messages, I realise how shallow and weak my presentations are. I shall be relying heavily on you and Maurice [Wood].’
When Billy arrived in Cambridge, John arranged for him to talk privately with C.S. Lewis, then a Fellow of Magdalene College. The three of them met in Lewis’s rooms at Magdalene and spent an hour or so together.
‘I was afraid I would be intimidated by Lewis,’ Billy later admitted, ‘but I was relieved to find that he immediately put me at ease. I found him to be not only intelligent and witty but also gentle and gracious. He seemed genuinely interested in our meetings.’
‘You know,’ Lewis said to Billy as they parted, ‘you have many critics, but I have never met one of your critics who knows you personally.’
INSIDE STORY – The Life of John Stott, Roger Steer (IVP, 2009), pp103-104
What a fascinating moment in 20th Century Christian history. Arguably 3 of the most influential Protestant voices of the century meeting together in one room. Oh to have been a fly on the wall for those hours.